At one point or another, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “think global, act local.” That phrase has always stuck with me, but context is everything. Living in Durham, the phrase has resonated with me so much more than it has in the past. I regularly consider how my actions may affect my local community. And after living and working on the national level, I see more clearly now that the issues are either solved or propagated at the community level.
I started following the non-profit, DurhamCares, a few weeks ago after they were mentioned in the same tweet from another mutual Twitter-er (who also happens to be quite active in the community). Long story short, I had a great conversation with one of the staff members at DurhamCares and feel strongly that their mission closely aligns this blog – disrupting the status quo by reducing silos. DurhamCares understands that issues are interconnected and leverages skills that have produced results in other industries, specifically business and journalism, and applies them seamlessly in a non-profit environment.
On to the interview with Elizabeth Poindexter, Marketing Coordinator of DurhamCares!
Me: Tell us about your past experiences in journalism and the path you’ve gone through to get to DurhamCares. Also, mention the skills you’re leveraging at your previous roles in your current one. I plan to introduce DurhamCares, but feel free to describe the future vision of it in terms of communication and marketing strategy.
Elizabeth Poindexter: I am a 2010 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduation, I worked for three years as a digital journalist and bureau chief for two television news stations and one newspaper. I learned a skill set in the journalism school that I’ve found to be applicable in other settings. Learning how to shoot and edit video, take photographs, and write well are valuable skills I still use at DurhamCares. At DurhamCares, we focus on content creation and content marketing strategies. Working as a one-man-band reporter taught me why people care about issues, how to mobilize communities, and how good content is part of that effort. While reporting, I saw stories making a difference, and I am thrilled to continue that work at DurhamCares.
I use very similar skills even though I’ve switched career paths. DurhamCares works to fully understand the scope of issues our community faces. Each DurhamCares issue-based marketing campaign has months worth of research behind it, so we can best understand the most compelling facts about each issue. In addition to research, we work to show people why they should care, which is why storytelling is important. DurhamCares also creates issue-based content, including infographics and videos, and I’ve led production for those projects. Overall, working as a journalist taught me the value of content creation. In my current role at DurhamCares, I focus on marketing that content to our target audiences to mobilize volunteers and donations toward Durham’s nonprofits.
Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?
EP: We’ve worked since summer 2013 to fully develop our issue-based collaborative marketing campaigns, which we solidified in early 2015. Our marketing campaigns leverage the concept of collective impact. We know of a few other organizations around the country leveraging collective impact to impact community development, and we’re testing that model here in the Triangle. Our marketing campaigns went through several iterations, and we are constantly learning how to best bring nonprofits together and focus on a single issue while applying this concept of collective impact to our work. As we’ve developed our campaigns, it is gratifying to hear when nonprofits have used a campaign tactic to bring in donations or to recruit more volunteers. I come to work every day knowing I’m making a difference, whether I realize it or not.
Me: What do you think it will take for our society to view health more seriously? As in, why is health lower in priority to careers and education and relationships?
EP: DurhamCares plans to launch a marketing campaign around the issue of health care access in May 2015. We’re counting on experts to help us author what that campaign should look like, but I’ve learned a lot already. In my opinion, health is a necessary building block for other aspects of our lives. Health care and health access have many implications in our lives and can impact our careers, education and relationships in the long-term. Both mental and physical health play a huge role in our community’s success. I believe prioritizing health issues our neighbors face could lead to building a healthier community in the long term.
Me: What are some things/concepts/ideas/insights you’ve learned in journalism that have helped you at DurhamCares?
EP: Storytelling is at the core of journalism. People are a lot more likely to connect with issues if they feel an emotional connection, and people are less likely to remember statistics and facts. I focus on storytelling at DurhamCares, and we try to show people how issues are relevant in their lives, even if it’s not immediately obvious. From a more practical standpoint, learning about content production and content management are also valuable skills to have. DurhamCares also has a strong social media presence, which we use to raise issue awareness. Lastly, networking with Triangle media outlets and knowing how reporters work is valuable in raising awareness through more traditional news outlets.
Me: What are the current needs in your city as they relate to social determinants of health (ie SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)? Social determinants of health are any factors that directly or indirectly affect health. For example, being homeless could cause stress and malnutrition which could drastically affect one’s health.
EP: DurhamCares focuses on nine different issue areas, including senior care, health care access, and youth. We’ve learned over the past couple years that each issue is connected to another in some way. I attended a conference a couple of years ago, and one woman’s story stuck with me. She lived in unaffordable housing, which is a growing issue in Durham as plans for light rail transit are made. This woman had battled mental health issues because of her living situation. I’ve realized a lot of these issues operate on a continuum. Perhaps the woman was previously homeless, unable to find a safe, affordable place to live. Maybe she had no choice but to live in unaffordable, substandard housing, which developed over time into a mental health issue. Unaffordable housing can result in frequent moving, which can result in an unstable home life, unstable schooling, etc., for families. It’s up to the community to care about issues that impact everyone so we can plan for a great future in Durham.